Return to Castle Wolfenstein

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Return to Castle Wolfenstein
Developer(s) Gray Matter Interactive
Nerve Software (multiplayer/Xbox 360)
Splash Damage (additional multiplayer)
Raster Productions (PlayStation 2)
Publisher(s) id Software
Distributor(s) Activision
Aspyr Media (Mac OS X)
Director(s) Drew Markham
Producer(s) Greg Goodrich
Designer(s) Mal Blackwell, Richard Farrelly
Programmer(s) Sherman Archibald
Artist(s) Claire Praderie, Corky Lehmkuhl
Writer(s) Steve Goldberg
Composer(s) Bill Brown[1]
Series Wolfenstein
Engine id Tech 3
Platforms Microsoft Windows
Mac OS X
PlayStation 2
Release date(s) Microsoft Windows
    March 16, 2002
    Mac OS X
    April 2002
        PlayStation 2
          August 4, 2007
          Genre(s) First-person shooter
          Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

          Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a first-person shooter video game published by Activision and originally released on November 19, 2001 for Microsoft Windows and subsequently for PlayStation 2, Xbox, Linux and Macintosh. The single player game was developed by Gray Matter Interactive and Nerve Software developed its multiplayer mode. id Software, the creators of Wolfenstein 3D, oversaw the development and were credited as executive producers. The multiplayer side eventually became the most popular part of the game, and was influential in the genre. Splash Damage, an independently owned game developer in London, created some of the maps for the Game of the Year edition. Splash Damage also developed a downloadable multi-player only sequel called Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, which is one of the most popular free downloadable games on the internet.[2] A further sequel, titled Wolfenstein, was released on August 18, 2009.


          While investigating the activities of the SS Paranormal Division in Germany, B.J. Blazkowicz and Agent One are captured by the Nazis. Agent One dies during interrogation, but B.J. manages to escape Castle Wolfenstein's dungeon. He then fights his way out of the castle, using a tram car to leave the area and meet up with a member of the German resistance in a nearby village.

          The SS Paranormal Division, under Oberführer Helga von Bulow, has been excavating the catacombs and crypts of an ancient church within the village. The Division's sloppy precautions have led to the awakening of hordes of undead creatures, including Saxon knights, and the entrance must be sealed off, leaving many soldiers trapped inside the catacombs. B.J. descends regardless and fights both Nazis and undead until he arrives at the ancient house of worship, the Defiled Church, where Nazi scientist Professor Zemph is conducting a 'life essence extraction' on the corpse of a Dark Knight. Shortly before B.J.'s arrival, Zemph tries to talk the impatient Helga von Bulow out of retrieving an ancient Thulian artifact, the "Dagger of Warding", but she shoots him and proceeds. This awakens a monster, Olaric, which kills her as well. Blazkowicz defeats Olaric, then is airlifted out with Zemph's notes and the dagger.

          One of Germany's leading scientific researchers and Head of the SS Special Projects Division, Wilhelm "Deathshead" Strasse, is preparing to launch an attack on London. He intends to use a V-2 rocket fitted with an experimental germ warhead, launching it from his base near Katamarunde in the Baltics. Blazkowicz is parachuted some distance from the missile base and smuggles himself in on a supply truck. Once inside, Blazkowicz destroys the V-2 on its launchpad and fights his way out of the facility towards an airbase filled with experimental jet aircraft. There, he commandeers a "Kobra" rocket-plane and flies to safety in Malta.

          Eager to know more about Deathshead and his secret projects, the Office of Secret Actions (OSA) sends Blazkowicz to the bombed city of Kugelstadt ('Bullet City'), where he is assisted by members of the German Kreisau Circle resistance group in breaking into a ruined factory and exfiltrating a defecting scientist. There he discovers the blueprints for the Reich's latest weapon, the Venom Gun, an electrically operated hand-held minigun. He also procures the weapon itself. Blazkowicz eventually breaks into Deathshead's underground research complex, the Secret Weapons Facility (SWF). There he encounters horrific creatures, malformed and twisted through surgery and mechanical implants. The creatures escape and go on a rampage. Blazkowicz sees Deathshead escape the SWF by U-Boat, and learns of his destination by interrogating a captured German officer.

          Blazkowicz is then parachuted into Norway, close to Deathshead's mysterious X-Labs. After breaking into the facility, which has been overrun by the twisted creatures he encountered in Kugelstadt (dubbed 'Lopers'), Blazkowicz retrieves Deathshead's journal. He then confronts several prototype Übersoldaten, towering monstrosities coated in armor, powered by hydraulic legs and carrying powerful fixed weapons. Finally, he destroys one of Deathshead's completed super soldier, Übersoldaten, and kills the researchers who have developed it. Deathshead himself escapes in a Kobra rocket-plane and does not appear in the game again.

          After studying the documents captured by Blazkowicz, the OSA has become aware of a scheme codenamed 'Operation: Resurrection', a plan to resurrect Heinrich I, a legendary and powerful Saxon warlock-king. Despite the skepticism of senior Allied commanders, the OSA parachutes Blazkowicz close to Castle Wolfenstein itself, at the Bramburg Dam, where he fights his way until he arrives at the town of Paderborn. After assassinating all the senior officers of the SS Paranormal Division present there for the resurrection, Blazkowicz fights his way through Chateau Schufstaffel and into the grounds beyond. After fighting two more Übersoldaten, Blazkowicz enters an excavation site near Castle Wolfenstein.

          Inside the excavation site, Blazkowicz fights Nazi guards and prototype Übersoldaten, and makes his way to a boarded-up entrance to Castle Wolfenstein's crypts. There, he finds that the ruined part of the castle has become infested with undead creatures, which are attacking the castle's desperate garrison. After fighting his way through the castle, Blazkowicz arrives too late at the site of a dark ceremony to resurrect Heinrich I. At the ceremony, SS Psychic Marianna Blavatsky conjures up dark spirits, which transform three Übersoldaten into Dark Knights, Heinrich's lieutenants. She ultimately raises Heinrich I, who "thanks" her by turning her into his undead slave. In a climactic battle, Blazkowicz destroys the three Dark Knights, the undead Marianna Blavatsky, and Heinrich I. The SS chief Heinrich Himmler watches in horror, remarking afterwards "This American... he has ruined everything" as he leaves for Berlin.

          Back in the OSA, Operation Resurrection is closed and Blazkowicz is off on some "R&R" — shooting Nazis.


          Wolfenstein MultiPlayer (MP) is an objective game mode, in which players are split into two teams - Axis and Allies. Each team has a set of objectives to complete, the Allies usually being to destroy some sort of Axis advantage, and the Axis objectives being to defend their object(s). These objectives are split into two categories, primary and secondary. Primary objectives are ones which must be completed for victory, generally stealing secret documents or destroying a radar array; however secondary objectives are ones which are optional - they do not have to be completed, but if they are they may aid the appropriate team, such as blowing out a door to allow access into a tunnel which shortens travel time or allows less-noticeable infiltration of the enemy base.

          Each team has access to a slightly different set of weapons, matching those used by each side in World War II. Players can choose from four different classes: Soldier, Medic, Lieutenant and Engineer.

          Each class specializes in a certain aspect of the game, and an effective team will balance players out using all four classes, such as a soldier for blasting through enemy defences, a medic for supporting the team and keeping them alive (Soldier making up for the lack of firepower with medics, medics making up for the lack of health), a Lieutenant to resupply teammates with ammo (especially soldiers) and engineers to complete the objective, having their way cleared by the soldier which is then supported by the Lieutenant.

          Gameplay modes

          There are three different modes of play in Wolf MP, each allowing for a different experience - general multiplayer deathmatch, stopwatch, and checkpoint. Stopwatch calls for the Allied side to complete a set of objectives within a predefined time limit. The opposing team then become the Allies and have to complete the objectives in a shorter time than the now Axis. Checkpoint gamemode is a mode in which teams capture flags. It may be more commonly known as Capture the Flag (CTF). Whichever team is first to control all the flags at once, wins. The team-based networked multiplayer features different character classes that must work together in order to win. There are four classes — lieutenant, medic, engineer, and soldier — the soldier can be one of several subclasses depending upon the special/heavy weapon that he selects. The multiplayer demo includes a beachhead assault map similar to Omaha Beach.


          Return to Castle Wolfenstein (RTCW) is a reboot of the early first-person shooter Wolfenstein 3D. It includes a story-based single player campaign (which uses certain themes from the original game), as well as a team-based networked multiplayer mode.

          In the campaign, Allied agents from the fictional "Office of Secret Actions" (OSA) are sent to investigate rumors surrounding one of Heinrich Himmler's personal projects, the SS Paranormal Division (also see Ahnenerbe). The agents are, however, captured before completing their mission and are imprisoned in Castle Wolfenstein. Taking the role of Blazkowicz, the player must escape the castle and continue investigating the activities of the SS Paranormal Division, which include research on resurrecting corpses, biotechnology, and secret weapons. During the game the player battles Waffen SS soldiers, elite Fallschirmjäger (paratroopers) known as Black Guards, undead creatures, and Übersoldaten (supersoldiers) formed from a blend of surgery and chemical engineering conducted by Wilhelm "Deathshead" Strasse. The end boss is an undead Saxon warrior-prince named Heinrich I.

          The cable car in the castle is based on the 1968 movie Where Eagles Dare, where a U.S. Army Brigadier General is captured and taken prisoner to the Schloß Adler, a fortress high in the Alps above the town of Werfen, reachable only by cable car, and the headquarters of the German Secret Service in southern Bavaria.[3][4] The supernatural element is based on the story of Castle Wewelsburg, a 17th-century castle occupied by the Germans under Heinrich Himmler's control, and used for occult rituals and practices.[5][6]

          In the German version of the game, it avoids making direct reference to Nazi Party and the "Third Reich", in order to comply with strict laws in Germany. The player is not battling Nazis but a secret sect called the "Wolves" led by Heinrich Höller, whose name is a pun of the original character Himmler (Himmler roughly translates as "Heavener", Höller as "Heller"). The Nazi swastika is also not present, the German forces use a Wolfenstein logo which is a combination of a stylized double-headed eagle prominent in most Nazi symbolism, a "W" (standing for Wolfenstein), and the Quake III: Team Arena "QIII" logo (the game engine and network code that RTCW is based upon). The "W" eagle logo is prominently seen on the cover art for the American version (above).

          Music pieces such as Moonlight sonata and Für Elise are used in the single player campaign.

          The game is powered by a heavily modified version of the Quake III: Team Arena engine. The Return to Castle Wolfenstein engine was subsequently used as the foundation for Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory (Splash Damage/Activision), "Trinity" (Gray Matter Interactive/Activision) (shown at E3 in 2004, but canceled shortly after) and Call of Duty (Infinity Ward/Activision).

          There are many different releases of Return to Castle Wolfenstein. The original release, version 1.0, came in a game box featuring a book-like flap. A Collector's Edition, packaged in a metal case, was released at the same time. The contents of the Collector's Edition changed depending on when it was purchased and could include a poster and fabric patch, a poster and a bonus CD, or just the bonus CD. The Game of the Year Edition (2002 - v.1.33) came with the original Wolfenstein 3D, game demos, and seven new multiplayer maps (Trenchtoast, Tram Siege, Ice, Chateau, Keep, The Damned, and Rocket.) The Platinum Edition (2004 - v.1.41) included Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, a stand-alone multiplayer expansion, and Wolfenstein 3D. Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War also came with the original Wolfenstein 3D as an unlockable after beating the campaign, and included some enhancements like surround sound.[7]


          The game was released for the Linux and Macintosh platforms in 2002, with the Linux port done internally by Timothee Besset and the Mac port done by Aspyr Media. In 2003, the game was ported to the PlayStation 2 and Xbox video game consoles and subtitled as Operation Resurrection and Tides of War, respectively. Since the official source code release, the game has also been ported to Android under the name RTCW4A[8] (the data files from the original game are required to play).

          Console version differences

          Both console versions include an additional single player prequel mission, set in the fictional town of Ras El-Hadid in Egypt. The latter half of the level features an extensive underground burial site with many undead enemies, as does the original first mission. This prequel level is likely closer to the developers' true intentions for the story, as indicated by the distinctly Egyptian design of the burial site, including the presence of sand, traps, mummies and hieroglyphs on the walls in some areas (in the original storyline, this site is found in the middle of a German village during the second mission). The PS2 version has a bonus feature which allows you to purchase items at the end of each level by finding secrets. In the Xbox version a Secret Bonus is awarded after every level when all the secret areas for that level have been found. It also has several new equipable items and weapons as well as new enemies. The two player co-op mode is exclusive to Xbox and allows the second player to play as Agent One. The Xbox version has downloadable content, system link play and had online multiplayer via Xbox Live before Live play was disabled for original Xbox games. A Platinum Hits edition of the game was also released for the Xbox. The PlayStation 2 version does not support online multiplayer.

          Source code release

          The source code for Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Enemy Territory was released under the GNU General Public License (GPL) on August 12, 2010.[9] The ioquake3 developers at announced the start of respective engine projects soon after.[10]


          A Return to Castle Wolfenstein film was announced in 2002 with Rob Cohen attached to direct. Little information has been available since, however, with the exception of a July 20, 2005 IGN interview. The interview discussed the Return to Castle Wolfenstein film with id employees.[11] In the interview, Todd Hollenshead indicated that the movie was in the works, though still in the early stages.

          On August 3, 2007, Variety confirmed Return to Castle Wolfenstein, to be written and directed by Roger Avary and produced by Samuel Hadida.[12] On November 2, 2012, Roger Avary has signed on to write and direct the film. The film is being described as a mix of Inglourious Basterds and Captain America.[13]


          Aggregate scores
          Aggregator Score
          GameRankings (PC) 86.75%[14]
          (XBOX) 84.78%[15]
          (PS2) 69.81%[16]
          Metacritic (PC) 88/100[17]
          (XBOX) 84/100[18]
          (PS2) 66/100[19]
          Review scores
          Publication Score
          Eurogamer 8[20]
          Game Revolution B[21]
          IGN 9[22]

          Return to Castle Wolfenstein received favorable reviews from critics. At Metacritic, it scores 88/100 (based on 32 reviews),[17] and on GameRankings it scores 86.75% (based on 50 reviews).[14] Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell called Return to Castle Wolfenstein "a worthy addition to the stable of id Software affiliated shoot 'em ups. The single player game is average to good and takes quite a while to finish, but the game really earns its salt by shipping with a first class multiplayer element."[20]


          In March 2008, the United States Department of State published a report to Congress, "Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism", that described Return to Castle Wolfenstein as an "anti-Semitic video game" with no qualifications.[23] The report picked up on an article originally written in 2002 by Jonathan Kay of the New York Times regarding the recent introduction of "Nazi protagonists" in the online gaming market (referring specifically to Day of Defeat and Wolfenstein).[24] The article was published just 19 days before Medal of Honor: Allied Assault was released which shares many similar features, and the Nazi protagonists in multiplayer.

          Todd Hollenshead, chief executive of id Software at the time of the original article stated:

          "The trend you're seeing with new games is, to some extent, a reflection of what's going in the culture ... For instance, you've now got games with terrorists and counterterrorists. And World War II games such as Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Day of Defeat reflect what you see in popular movies... I don't doubt there are going to be people that go out and distort what the multiplayer gaming experience is and say, 'Oh, I can't believe you guys did this.' There are a lot of critics of the game industry, and they look for things to criticize."[24]


          The game was nominated at 2002 Game Developers Choice Awards in the "Excellence in Programming" category (Sherman Archibald, John Carmack, and Ryan Feltrin).


          A multiplayer-only spinoff of the series, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, was originally planned as a full-fledged expansion pack for Return to Castle Wolfenstein developed by Splash Damage. The single player component of the game was never completed and thus was removed entirely. The developers at that point decided the multiplayer part would be released as a free, downloadable standalone game. Enemy Territory is a team-based networked multiplayer game which involves completing objectives through teamwork using various character classes. As of late 2011, Enemy Territory remains a popular game.

          This gameplay was also later reutilized in a full-fledged commercial game Enemy Territory: Quake Wars set in id Software's Quake universe. A sequel called Wolfenstein was developed by Raven Software and id Software and published by Activision,[25] and released on August 18, 2009.


          1. "COPYING.txt". 2010-08-13. Retrieved 2010-08-14. 
          3. Behind Enemy Lines: The Making of 'Return to Castle Wolfenstein' documentary
          4. history of wolfenstein (Dutch) Google translated
          5. Russell, Stuart (2007). La fortezza di Heinrich Himmler — Il centro ideologico di Weltanschauung delle SS — Cronaca per immagini della scuola-SS Haus Wewelsburg 1934-1945 [Heinrich Himmlers Burg — Das Weltanschauliche Zentrum Der SS — Bildchronick der SS-Schule Haus Wewelsburg 1934-1945]. Roma: Editrice Thule Italia. ISBN 978-88-902781-0-5.
          8. RTCW4A - Android Apps on Google Play
          10. Larabel, Michael (2010-06-13). "id Software Open-Sources ET, RTCW". Phoronix. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
          11. "Comic-Con 2005: IGN Interviews id Software CEO Todd Hollenshead" from IGN
          12. "Hadida storms 'Castle' rights" from Variety
          13. 'Pulp Fiction' writer will direct 'Castle Wolfenstein' movie
          14. 14.0 14.1 "Return to Castle Wolfenstein for PC". GameRankings. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
          17. 17.0 17.1 "Return to Castle Wolfenstein for PC Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
          20. 20.0 20.1 Bramwell, Tom (21 December 2001). "Return to Castle Wolfenstein". Eurogamer. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
          21. B., Johnny (1 December 2001). "Return to Castle Wolfenstein Review". Game Revolution. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
          22. "Return to Castle Wolfenstein". IGN. 30 November 2001. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
          23. "Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism: p58" from United States Department of State
          24. 24.0 24.1 "Defying a Taboo, Nazi Protagonists Invade Video Games" from the New York Times
          25. E3 2008: Wolfenstein, Singularity unveiled at Activision Blizzard event

          External links